novembre 29, 2023

‘MNF’ preview: Can Eagles avenge Super Bowl loss in Kansas City?

4 min read

The Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) aim to avenge their Super Bowl LVII loss as they face the Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) on « Monday Night Football » in a matchup that could determine who wins this season’s MVP award.

The television broadcast will surely give us a glimpse of Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift’s parents meeting one another, but here’s what to watch for when Philadelphia and Kansas City are on offense. 

When the Eagles are on offense 

QB Jalen Hurts’s MVP case: According to oddschecker, Hurts, the runner-up for last season’s MVP, is listed as the slight favorite to take home the award this time around (+280). Through nine games, Hurts has amassed 2,663 yards of total offense and 22 touchdowns but has gained most of his yards through the air rather than rushing on non-QB sneaks.

However, considering how effective Hurts was on the ground in Super Bowl LVII (70 yards and three touchdowns), perhaps OC Brian Johnson will have his quarterback use his legs more against the Chiefs. 

Can the Chiefs secondary keep WR A.J. Brown in check?: The biggest reason why Hurts is on track to set a career-high in passing yards per game (260.5) has been the exceptional performance of Brown. The two-time Pro Bowler has elevated his game to another level in his second season with the Eagles, ranking fourth in receiving yards (1,005) and ninth in receptions (67).

Last month, Brown broke Pro Football Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson’s NFL record for consecutive games with 125-plus receiving yards (six), and is looking for a similar outing on Monday after his streak snapped in his last game. Even so, the Chiefs defense could present one of the toughest matchups of the season for Brown, as the unit allows the third-fewest passing yards in the NFL (1,757). 

Will the Chiefs withstand the « Brotherly Shove »?: Stopping Brown won’t be easy, but shutting down Philadelphia’s innovative rugby-style version of the quarterback sneak could prove to be an even greater challenge. The « tush push » or « Brotherly Shove » has caused quite a stir since the Eagles implemented it into their playbook last season. Philadelphia has gotten a first down or scored a touchdown on roughly 90% of its attempts since the play’s inception while several other teams have struggled to execute it.

Despite the play’s high success rate, Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones revealed he’s been given tips on how to counter it during an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show” last week. 

“We got a plan for it,” Jones said, via Sports Illustrated. “We’re going to watch a few rugby games. I got a rugby friend, I can’t disclose his name, but I got a rugby friend who’s been telling me a few little pointers on what I could do to stop this.”

This battle could be decided in the trenches: Ultimately, this matchup could be settled by how the stout Eagles offensive line, which ranks second in Pro Football Focus’s pass-blocking efficiency metric (90.3), handles the pressure the Chiefs will frequently bring. Entering Week 11, Steve Spagnuolo’s defense is second in pressure rate (28.2%), third in sacks (31) and sixth in blitz percentage (33.7%). 

When the Chiefs are on offense 

QB Patrick Mahomes’ MVP case: The two-time Super Bowl champion is making a compelling case to win his second consecutive MVP Award and become the seventh player in NFL history to receive the honor three times. Mahomes, who has the second-shortest odds for MVP (+330), is averaging the sixth-most passing yards per game this season (271.3) and eighth in touchdown passes (17).

The past two games have been disappointing for Mahomes, which is one of the reasons why he isn’t currently the MVP front-runner. Over that stretch he has thrown for 425 yards and two touchdowns while turning the ball over four times. With a more favorable matchup on deck, Mahomes is well-positioned to rebound and potentially take the lead in the MVP race. 

TE Travis Kelce’s surprising splits: It’s unclear whether Swift will accompany her parents to Arrowhead Stadium, but if the global superstar is in attendance, it would bode well for Kelce. The 34-year-old is averaging 8.5 receptions and 108 yards across the four games Swift has attended this season as compared to 3.5 receptions and 41.3 yards over the games she has missed. 

Eagles run defense: While Philadelphia doesn’t have as imposing a pass rush as last season, its run defense is one of the best in the league, largely due to the emergence of DTs Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter. The rookie Carter has been particularly dominant to start his career, as he is rated as the second-best interior defender in the NFL (90.6), per PFF. The Eagles have allowed the fewest rushing yards (597) and the third-fewest yards per carry this season (3.7), which could suggest the Chiefs won’t be relying on their ground game too much.

Lackluster receiving corps vs. subpar secondary: Last season, Philadelphia boasted one of the top secondaries in the NFL, allowing only 3,548 passing yards, the fifth-fewest in the league, and while most of its pieces have returned this season, the results have been drastically different. Injuries piled up for the defense early on, but the Eagles have still been vulnerable in the passing game. Only the Los Angeles Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers allow more passing yards per game than the Eagles (279).

If Philadelphia can contain Kelce, the could be in luck given how questionable the Chiefs’ weapons are outside of their future Hall of Fame tight end. Rookie second-round pick Rashee Rice is the team’s second-leading receiver this season (378 yards), and no Chief, except for him and Kelce, has amassed even 280 receiving yards this season. 

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